South Asia was the foundational case study around which regional security complex theory first developed. But we start our tour du monde with Asia because it is still an exemplar of traditional regional security dynamics found largely in military-political mode. The popularity of 'comprehensive' and 'cooperative' security rhetorics in many Asian states is a significant development, most notably in Southeast Asia where ASEAN constructed a noteworthy third world security regime. But in Asia old-fashioned concerns about power still dominate the security agendas of most of the regional powers, and war remains a distinct, if constrained, possibility. The realist quality of Asian regional security enables us to start our story on familiar ground, easing our way into the complexities of how the wider security agenda affects the regionality of security dynamics overall.
While this simplifies things a bit, the Asian case nonetheless has some striking features that set it apart. Asia contains two great powers (China and Japan) and a third state (India) that is the leading aspirant to elevation from regional to great power standing. It also contains three nuclear weapon states (NWS–China, India, Pakistan) and a possible fourth (North Korea), plus three nuclear threshold states (Japan, South Korea, Taiwan) practising 'recessed deterrence'–the capability to move quickly to NWS status should their local environment become more threatening militarily, or the promise of US support lose its credibility. A co-location of adjacent great and regional powers on such a scale has only one other precedent, Europe, and the most apt comparison is not with today's Europe, embedded in a thick weave of regional institutions, but with the balance-of-power Europe of the nineteenth century. Asia now, like Europe then, contains a range of substantial powers in varying degrees of industrialisation. Japan, like Britain, is an advanced industrial